Connecting to Change the World
The Singapore International Foundation’s Young Social Entrepreneurs programme links budding social entrepreneurs to individuals and organisations working to make a positive impact.
or any social enterprise (SE) seeking to make an impact in today’s increasingly complex and connected world, collaborations across sectors and geographies are important. This is the basis of the Singapore International Foundation’s (SIF) Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) programme, which aims to inspire, equip and enable international youth to grow social enterprises in Singapore and beyond. The programme gives budding entrepreneurs the chance to learn from and connect with other like-minded individuals and organisations through a mentorship scheme, workshops and an overseas study visit.
“There are great lessons and meaningful connections to be made when people from diverse backgrounds and nationalities convene. The intersection of these variables is where the potential for innovation and collaboration can happen.”
Ehon Chan, executive director of the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre
Every year, a team of mentors, judges and experts work behind the scenes to help the young turn their ideas into reality. It comprises partner organisations like international management consultancy McKinsey & Company, Singapore investment company Temasek International, and social entrepreneurs’ network Ashoka.
It also includes established social entrepreneurs, opinion leaders, academics and captains of industry from several corporations. Among them are entrepreneur Elim Chew and Kevin Teo, who is the managing director of Asian Venture Philanthropy Network’s Knowledge Centre, which helps social impact practitioners to be more strategic and impactful in their work.
Employees from McKinsey & Company, for instance, have volunteered as mentors under SIF’s YSE mentorship scheme since 2014. Micah Yoo, manager at McKinsey & Company, has mentored two different teams in 2014 and 2015, and was part of the judging panel that shortlisted finalists for the programme in 2016. The mentoring process allowed Yoo to observe the growth of the teams up close.
He says: “The distinct changes I observed in the teams I mentored over time include a deeper understanding of the social issues they were trying to solve,heightened belief in their business models through tests and pivoting, and better structuring of the problem and solutions as well as the way they presented their business models. These changes could not have come about if the teams did not have the genuine interest and passion towards the ideas they were trying to make into reality.
“I would like to think that I grew with the teams through the journey by sharing ideas, encouraging them to take the thinking one step further, and supporting their cause… Hopefully, teams take the learnings to the next chapter of their journey and improve even more.”
For SIF’s YSE programme in 2016, Avantika Jain, head of merchandising and manager of campaigns at Lazada Group, mentored BeBonobo, which came up with the idea of an online platform to connect people with unused items to those who may have use for them, so as to encourage responsible consumption. Jain was impressed with the dedication shown by the team. She says: “This wasn’t just a side project for them; it was everything – and they worked wholeheartedly on it. When you have this kind of passion, anything is possible. For me, this was also the most fulfilling thing to see as a mentor.”
SIF’s YSE programme also draws upon the expertise of overseas partners to enrich the social entrepreneurship journey for the youth. For the 2016 programme, SIF’s YSE teams visited Kuala Lumpur in July to better understand its SE landscape from social entrepreneurs, corporations and industry experts.
The Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), which aims to promote entrepreneurship in Malaysia and build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country, hosted SIF’s YSE teams at a networking session with other social entrepreneurs from Malaysia during the study visit. Ehon Chan, executive director of MaGIC, says: “There are great lessons and meaningful connections to be made when people from diverse background and nationalities convene. The intersection of these variables is where the potential for innovation and collaboration can happen.”
Christoffer Saabye Erichsen, chief executive officer of consultancy firm Human Inc, led a workshop for SIF’s YSE teams in Kuala Lumpur on leveraging opportunities to grow their ideas.
He says: “SEs drive a vision of business that focuses on building a better world of understanding and empathy – a world in which purposedriven businesses enable peace and collaboration. The political, ethnic and religious tensions we witness in today’s world only make SIF’s YSE and other social entrepreneurship programmes more relevant.”
Yoo believes that the global perspective of SIF’s YSE programme will go a long way in helping participants to grow their ideas. He says: “The friendships and the support system…will help them in their future journey…Having a global perspective is particularly important in order to appreciate broader opportunities for social change, experience greater scale of learnings that can be reapplied and benefit from the latent potential of networking, and building an international community.”
THE SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION’S YOUNG SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS PROGRAMME 2016
After an eight-month journey under the Singapore International Foundation’s Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) programme, six teams comprising 13 youth from six countries – Azerbaijan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Yemen – were awarded seed funding of up to S$20,000 each. A more valuable takeaway was being able to learn from and interact with leading social entrepreneurs, business professionals and other like-minded youths, thus expanding their networks for potential collaborations. Here, they share their thoughts on their YSE journey.
“The YSE programme gave me the opportunity to make friends and exchange ideas with people who have the same passion for social enterprise. It strengthened my conviction to be an entrepreneur and taught me many useful skills.”
Indonesian Novi Anathasia Purba, co-founder of KAMA BATIK
KAMA BATIK hires unemployed women to make accessories, such as necklaces and bags, from waste material collected from batik companies in Indonesia. It hopes to improve their employability through training.
“Beyond learning about business skills and knowledge from this programme, we have also learnt that we are not alone in our journey to build a better world. Through the YSE programme, we worked together with like-minded individuals. I will never forget the network of global changemakers I have met here.”
Malaysian Ong Kay Kay, cofounder of BeBonobo
BEBONOBO aims to promote conscious consumption through an online sharing network that connects owners of unused items with those who may have use for them.
“There’s an incredibly supportive and collaborative community of social entrepreneurs out there who are always willing to help. The mentors that the YSE programme matched us with were incredibly helpful…If there’s one thing that I treasured most in the YSE journey, it is this learning experience through mentorship.”
Singaporean Louis Puah, founder of Praxium
PRAXIUM helps youth to discover their talents and passions through experiential programmes.
“The connections we made through YSE will help our social entrepreneurial journey. Interacting with fellow participants from various places in Asia was like being offered a window into their societies…It has opened our eyes to the potential that exists outside of our home market for our business.”
Singaporean Shafiqah Nurul Afiqah Ramani, co-founder of PsychKick
PSYCHKICK is a mobile application that connects psychotherapists with their patients in between treatment sessions.
“I’ve gained new insights on the possibilities that may come about when social enterprises tap into the power of multisectoral networks. We are excited to explore collaborations with corporates, the non-profit sector and government, and see how that can help us scale up our impact and create greater social value for the communities we work with.”
Indian Mohit Dave, co-founder of Saadhan
SAADHAN hopes to improve the income of farmers in rural India by setting up a secure supply chain, so they can sell their cashew nuts to markets in South Gujarat and North Maharashtra.
“I was able to forge friendships with participants from different countries. There’s a lot of peer encouragement because we share a common goal of effecting social change through entrepreneurship. Even the mentoring process with our volunteer business consultant was a collaborative one, which helped us to improve our business model.”
Singaporean Muhammad Haziq Mohd Rashid, co-founder of NOMAD
NOMAD helps poor rural communities by selling unique crafts created through partnerships between Singapore artisans and rural communities in India. Praxium wants youth to discover their talents and passions through experiential programmes.
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